After a long period of gestation I can welcome The Devil’s Cut into the world. Like any parent, I’m immensely proud of my latest book but also worried about how it will be received. The parallels to sending your own children out to fend for themselves are only too clear and inevitably I can expect to run a gamut of emotions as the reviews come in.
The word gamut, I have learned, derives from the Latin word used in the Middle Ages to cover the entirety of notes from which melodies are composed. More latterly it has been used to describe the range of colours available in a palette, the limitations of whatever medium is used to display the colours and the available illumination meaning a colour palette covering the entirety of hues detectable by the human eye is so far unable to be reproduced except by nature.
A writer has no such limitation. We have full and unhindered access to the twenty-six letters forming the alphabet – same as everyone from Shakespeare to Thomas De Quincey (both of whom used the word gamut). Of course I am guilty of oversimplification here; the letters are the raw material but words form the building blocks of a writer’s life. Then there is the knowledge and availability of those words – I don’t believe anyone has full access to the full gamut of words in any language, especially as words are born and die within generations. Nor is a wordy tale or one using more earthy language in some way necessarily superior to the other; the skill is in the telling.
So we have the words, and sufficient concept of grammar such that whatever arrangement the words take will impart some meaning to a reader. Is that it? To distil knowledge? Not entirely. The first use of words came about verbally, perhaps our ancestors telling stories around the fire or describing the world and making sense of life. Stories would have been the first true entertainment – once the basics of food, shelter, danger had been dealt with.
I like to think that the writer, alongside the musician, are holders of that most ancient of flames. Telling stories can be a noble occupation.
By the way, in the manufacture of whisky and other spirits, a portion evaporates through the wood of a cask as the liquor matures. This is known as the angel’s share.
That element absorbed by the wood of the cask, held within the darkness, that’s the Devil’s Cut.